- The Washington Times - Monday, August 29, 2005

Republicans say their national party is quietly backing New York social liberals William Weld and Jeanine Pirro in two elections that will draw national attention next year.

Mr. Weld has set out to succeed fellow Republican George E. Pataki as New York’s governor, and Mrs. Pirro wants to challenge Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in her expected re-election bid.

Republicans consider it a top priority to hold on to the governor’s mansion in the largest state in the Northeast and say Mr. Weld can do it.

At the same time, they see unseating Mrs. Clinton as less likely than achieving an important goal — forcing her to fight for re-election.

“If New York Republicans can force her to raise lots of money nationally and spend it on her New York Senate election, they will have performed a valuable service to us all,” said Oklahoma Republican National Committee member Lynn Windel. “It will take money away from the Democrats’ other candidates, and this always creates dissension among the different state parties.”

But New York State Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long likened the Republican support for Mr. Weld and Mrs. Pirro to the liberal East Coast “Nelson Rockefeller-Jacob Javits-John Lindsay Republicanism of the past.”

“Weld represented the liberal wing of the Republican Party,” Mr. Long said. “Spending in Massachusetts went through the roof. … He was probably the leading Republican in the nation on liberal social issues.”

Since 1974, no Republican has won statewide office in New York without the endorsement of the Conservative Party, and that endorsement is unlikely to go to Mrs. Pirro or Mr. Weld. But across the country, Republican state party chairmen are sounding big-tent themes for the New York candidates.

“The Republican Party needs both the moderates and the conservatives,” said Washington state Republican Party Chairman Chris Vance. “If the party is viewed as trying to purge one or another faction, then we’ll have a civil war that only helps the Democrats.”

“Most conservatives view Republican politics in New York state as outside the norm and not subject to our influence at all,” Mr. Windel said.

In 1997, President Clinton chose Mr. Weld, who was governor of Massachusetts at the time, as ambassador to Mexico, but the nomination was blocked by Sen. Jesse Helms, North Carolina Republican. As governor of Massachusetts, Mr. Weld was a strong supporter of homosexual rights.

Mrs. Pirro is running against two conservatives for the Republican Senate nomination — Ed Cox, a pro-life New York lawyer and Richard Nixon’s son-in-law, and former Yonkers Mayor John Spencer.

Mr. Cox has committed to spend $1 million of his own money to win the Senate nomination. Mr. Spencer is running a TV ad that tags Mrs. Pirro as a “liberal’s liberal,” and says, “She’s not running to beat Hillary Clinton. She’s running to be Hillary Clinton.”

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